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The Blue Flag programme for beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators is run by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education). The Blue Flag programme was started in France in 1985. It has been operating in Europe since 1987 and in areas outside of Europe since 2001, when South Africa joined. Today, Blue Flag has become a truly global programme with an ever-increasing number of countries participating in the programme.

The Blue Flag programme promotes sustainable tourism development in freshwater and marine areas. It challenges local authorities, beach operators and sustainable boating tourism operators to achieve high standards in the six categories of: water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information, safety and services, social responsibility and responsible tourism. Over the years, the Blue Flag has become a highly respected and recognised eco-label working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels to ensure sustainable tourism.

The explanatory notes given in this document make up the common and shared understanding of the Blue Flag sustainable boating tourism operator criteria and the requirements for the implementation thereof. The explanatory notes provide details on the measurement and management of compliance with the Blue Flag sustainable boating tourism operator criteria.

The criteria are categorised as either imperative or guideline. Most sustainable boating tourism operator criteria are imperative, i.e. the sustainable boating tourism operator must comply with them in order to be awarded Blue Flag accreditation. If they are guideline criteria, it is preferable that they are complied with, but not mandatory. In the case that a sustainable boating tourism operator cannot comply with one or more of the imperative criteria the tour operator can apply for a dispensation. Appendix A gives further information about dispensation cases. It must be emphasised that the Blue Flag sustainable boating tourism operator criteria in this document are the minimum criteria. A national programme can choose to have stricter criteria than what is outlined here.

These sustainable boating tourism operator criteria and explanatory notes are to be used by all Blue Flag applicants in order to understand the requirements that must be met before a tour operator can receive Blue Flag accreditation. For guidance purposes, this document should also prove valuable for the management of those sustainable boating tourism operators already accredited with Blue Flag status. The sustainable boating tourism operator criteria and explanatory notes also serve as a guide for the National, Regional and International Blue Flag Juries when making decisions about a Blue Flag sustainable boating tourism operator candidate.

Criteria for Blue Flag sustainable boating tourism